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Avicenna’s Intellectual Upbringing: The Autobiography and Its Interpretation

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Chapter Summary

Following Aristotle's general discussion in Metaphysics E1, the Alexandrian scholars of late antiquity erected an elaborate schema of classification of his works in which individual treatises corresponded to a field of study. The result of this process was that the classification of Aristotle's works became, in effect, a classification of all the sciences, and hence of all human knowledge. As a fairly standard representative of this classification, this chapter summarizes The Categories of the Philosophical Sciences by Abū-Sahl al-Masīḥī, a distinguished physician and companion of Avicenna. Avicenna's philosophical formation took place in this tradition, in the intellectually active capital of the Sāmānids, Buḫārā, where he spent the consequential years of his life, approximately from age six to twenty-two. In the autobiography he gives us a detailed account of the subjects he studied, with his age at each stage and his few teachers. His educational career is divisible into four stages.

Keywords: Alexandrian Scholars; Aristotle; autobiography; Avicenna; science; The Categories of the Philosophical Sciences

10.1163/9789004262072_004
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